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No Less a Woman: Part 2

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#NoLessAWoman

For the second year running during Breast Cancer Awareness Month, our #NoLessAWoman campaign told the stories of four more brave women who have survived breast cancer.

 

The #NoLessAWoman campaign continued with a series of portraits shot by Jane Hutchison, photographer and founder of the Hello Beautiful Foundation – a London-based charity that provides support to women with breast cancer and their families. As part of the ongoing campaign, we have unveiled the Louise Listening post-double mastectomy compression bra in a new colourway. Named after Stella’s mother, Linda McCartney, all proceeds from the purchase of the bra go to the Hello Beautiful Foundation.

 
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ELAINE, 37, LONDON

Elaine was first diagnosed with breast cancer at just 34 years old. In order to encourage awareness, early detection and eliminate taboo, she bravely shares with us her story.

HOW OLD WERE YOU WHEN YOU WERE DIAGNOSED WITH BREAST CANCER AND HOW DID YOU FIND OUT?

I had just had my 34th birthday. I found a lump on my left breast by chance.

 
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SHARE WITH US YOUR STORY?

I was at work and sitting at my desk. It was a cold day in the office so I hugged myself and felt something on my left breast. I remember going to the ladies with one of the girls from work and we were prodding and poking this lump I had found. I arranged a doctor’s appointment and my GP found another lump on my right breast. I was sent to the hospital for further tests and on December 28th I was diagnosed with bilateral breast cancer. One breast was hormonal positive and the other was hormonal negative – I was fighting two different types of breast cancer. I had 8 rounds of chemotherapy followed by a double mastectomy. Unfortunately, my cancer returned in 2015 and I have since had more chemo. I am currently living with secondary breast cancer, and in my stomach, bowl and pelvis area. I am in and out of hospital having chemo and regular scans. Every day is different and very precious.


WHO OR WHAT HAS HELPED YOU THROUGH THIS DIFFICULT PERIOD IN YOUR LIFE?

Family and friends have been amazing. I was also working for a great company who were very supportive through my ongoing ‘journey’. I’ve had support from people I hadn’t seen or been in contact with for years! It was amazingly overwhelming and I’m one lucky lady to have so many great people in my life!

 
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WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE SOMEONE JUST DIAGNOSED THAT YOU HAVE LEARNT ALONG YOUR JOURNEY?

It’s going to be a tough, but you can do it! I would also say, be kind to yourself. For some reason we find being kind to ourselves difficult, but it is so important! Fighting cancer is tough and lonely sometimes no matter how many people you have around you. Be brave, be kind to yourself and for a lot of women, it’s not the end… it’s the beginning of a whole new and wonderful life.

 
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CHRISTINA, 41, BIRMINGHAM


HOW OLD WERE YOU WHEN YOU WERE DIAGNOSED WITH BREAST CANCER?

I was diagnosed when I was 39, two weeks before my 40th birthday.


COULD YOU SHARE YOUR STORY WITH US?

Before breast cancer, like most women in their thirties, I was on the treadmill of life – but the diagnosis made me re-evaluate everything. The moment I found the lump was frightening, and I made an appointment with my GP to get it checked out. Initially my GP thought it was a non-cancerous cyst, as I have no family history of breast cancer but referred me to the breast unit to be on the safe side. I was given a mammogram and a scan and from that, the doctor told me that I had breast cancer. I was shocked, devastated and scared. I was thrown into a world of blood tests, scans, chemotherapy and also had to have a mastectomy. Despite having breast cancer, I still feel lucky. Lucky that I found the lump early and I was able to undergo treatment quickly and successfully.


WHO OR WHAT HAS HELPED YOU THROUGH THIS DIFFICULT PERIOD IN YOUR LIFE?

My son, friends and family have been incredibly supportive and I’ve felt very cared for.

 
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WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE SOMEONE JUST DIAGNOSED THAT YOU HAVE LEARNT ALONG YOUR JOURNEY?

The advice I would give to someone newly diagnosed would be to find your support network and concentrate on getting through this difficult period. It was really important to me that I was able to talk to women of a similar age going through the same thing. Everyone copes differently so find your way to cope and throw everything at it! Also accept help wherever possible, be it people cooking meals, babysitting, cleaning or even someone doing your shopping. I’ve learned from all this that life is short. My friend Danielle died earlier this year and I intend to live by her quote, “There is only one thing guaranteed in life and it’s that no one is getting out alive. Everything in life and love is fast, so grab it by the horns and enjoy the ride!

 
 

HEIDI 33, BRISTOL


HOW OLD WERE YOU WHEN YOU WERE DIAGNOSED WITH BREAST CANCER?   

I was 32 and had been breast-feeding my little boy Tait. I noticed I had a rash, and when it didn’t go away after a few weeks, I had it checked out. After two GP’s  misdiagnosed me as having mastitis, I saw a third GP who referred me to a breast clinic.


SHARE WITH US YOUR STORY?

I was diagnosed with Inflammatory Breast Cancer. The rarest and most aggressive type of breast cancer that affects only 500 women in the UK. I was diagnosed when pregnant with my third baby. Being HER2 positive, I needed the drug Herceptin to help fight my cancer – a drug I couldn’t have in pregnancy. I was offered a termination, which I declined. I loved my baby as much as my two boys, and I couldn’t not give her a chance. I declined Herceptin and agreed to have my baby girl at 30 week’s gestation. I had AC chemo whilst pregnant but it did nothing, and the cancer began to grow. I had to bring my baby’s birth forward by two weeks, where she had over 90% chance of survival. The cancer was spreading so quickly that waiting two more weeks to give birth would have meant I wouldn’t have been here for any of my children. Baby Ally Louise Smith was born at 28+1 week’s gestation on December 11th, 2015, weighing 2lb, 5oz – beautiful and perfect. She was very healthy and doing so well, but unfortunately caught an infection in hospital and died at just 8 days old. Our world fell apart, but we desperately tried to get control back for our two little boys. I then discovered the cancer had spread to my lungs. I began treatment for secondary breast cancer. I then had a mastectomy and radiotherapy. I have since discovered that the cancer has spread further into my skin. I have swapped to a different drug, and am hopeful that this one works. I want to be here to see my boys grow up and will keep attacking this with the strength of a thousand lions.

 
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WHO OR WHAT HAS HELPED YOU THROUGH THIS DIFFICULT PERIOD IN YOUR LIFE?

My family and friends are beyond incredible. There is someone I can lean on 24/7. I have been writing a blog which has helped me empty my mind a little. Storm in a Tit Cup has won an award from the MAD blog awards for Best Writer. I have also taken part in a documentary to raise awareness and I generally try to laugh as much as possible.

 
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WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE SOMEONE JUST DIAGNOSED THAT YOU HAVE LEARNT ALONG YOUR JOURNEY?

Talk to others. No one wants to be in this boat, but it’s good to speak to other people who know what it’s like. It’s also good to talk about your fears. All of them. Hiding from your feelings only gives them more power.

All photography by Jane Hutchison